While exact figures on the number of accidents caused by distraction are not available, a Dutch study estimated that eliminating mobile phone use while driving would have prevented nearly 600 road deaths and hospital admissions in one year alone.
Common causes of distraction
Most distractions can be avoided by good organization. Eat, smoke or make that call before hitting the road, and pull over to deal with children or take a call.
Eyes on the road, hands on the wheel
Distraction takes many forms, with some activities stealing the driver’s attention in more ways than one.
- Happens when a driver has to use one or both hands to answer a call, send a text message, use a satnav, change radio channel, eat or smoke
- Both hands should be available to steer and change gear at all times
- Caused when a driver looks away from the road, e.g. to use phone or satnav
- Occurs when a driver is distracted by the initial ringing of the phone, a telephone conversation, or even a conversation with a passenger
- Happens when two mental tasks are performed at the same time
- Listening alone can reduce activity in the part of the brain used for driving by more than a third
- Using a hand-held phone while driving is illegal in all EU countries
- Using a hands-free device is also illegal in some countries
- Eating, drinking and smoking are not illegal, but drivers can be charged with careless driving if police believe they are not in control of the vehicle